Friday, January 08, 2010

Conservative Libertarianism's Comeback

A good column by David Paul Kuhn was published in Real Clear Politics. I don't think conservative libertarianism (small  l) ever completely went away, but it was dormant for a long time, with grumbling during the 2002-2008 period. Conservative libertarians (which I consider myself to a degree) were still extremely angry at the Clinton administrations power grabs and while we wern't real Bush fans, we stomached him because of the alternative. Gore, and worse, John Kerry. 

From his column

The philosophical casualty of the Great Recession was supposed to be libertarianism. But signs to the contrary are thriving.
Americans are increasingly opposed to activist government programs. The most significant social movement of 2009, the Tea Party protests, grew out of that opposition. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand is as popular today as ever. Rand's brilliant and radical laissez faire novel "Atlas Shrugged," sold roughly 300,000 copies last year, according to BookScan, twice its sales in 2008 and roughly triple annual sales in recent decades.
We are witnessing a conservative libertarian comeback. It's an oppositional advance, a response to all manners of active-state liberalism since the financial crisis. It's a pervasive feeling of invasiveness. The factional bastions of traditional libertarianism, like Washington think tank Cato, now have an intangible and awkward alliance with a broad swath of the American electorate.

I mostly agree. It started before that, but exploded with the bailout. The right is more apt to keep the complaints about "their guys" in house. One other thing common on the right even if go back to Iraq is that a lot of people were against the original decision.(particular paleoconservatives), but once the decision is made, shut the hell up, don't be an anti-American protester hurting morale, and stay out of the way since losing a war is worse. I know many war veterans with that exact view. That's one of the big reasons why I usually stick to domestic policy and limit my foreign policy comments to treaties on this blog.

In my own case, I never supported the Patriot Act, either in its Clinton/Hatch/Reno form under a different name to fight the "war on (some) drugs", or in Bush/Ashcroft's "war on terror." Rule of thumb - anytime you hear "war on" anything - war on povery, war on drugs, war on terror (in a Politically correct fashion), expect to lose some freedoms. Stuff like this, and Bush's spending, and Ted Stevens and his 83 votes (including Stabenow and Levins) pork barrelled bridge to nowhere. Eventually there was open revolt and people staying home in elections. Less government no longer became associated with either party. It drive up the f'ing wall when dummies say that opposition to Obama's powergrabs is called "the same stuff for the 8 years". That's crap.  Bush was big government. Obama has all of Bush's bad traits on steroids (although he still looks and acts like a wuss. I know, that's not nice.)  Bush and Obama are both Keynesians in their approach to economics (and Keynesian economics gave us stagflation in the 70's).

Even before the Bush/Obama/McCain banks bailout, which was voted on by all three of them, there was a revolt on the right against big government, and not just on this blog either. The Draft Mike Pence and Mark Sanford (before we know about his Appalachian Trail adventures...what were ya thinking) movements were in response to the big government economics of Bush and Congress. In 2007, Ron Paul did announce and re-ignited the small government movement. He had his critics because of how far he pushed, but even his critics acknowledge that Ron Paul had some good issues that he brought to the debate. He didn't look so dumb with the banks bailout.

Obama accelerated Bush's spending with his so called stimulus bills, auto takeovers and micromanagement, job shedding, and health care bill that screws people and benefits big insurance. No wonder people are pissed off.


There is no wide-ranging call for government to withdraw from social issues however. A rebirth of traditional libertarianism this is not. It's a more limited libertarianism that it is on the march.
Every year, since the early 1990s, the Gallup poll has sought to measure the degree of libertarianism in the American mind. First question: does the public believe the government is "trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses?" Fifty-seven percent said yes last August, the highest level since 1998.
Gallup's second question asks whether Americans believe "government should promote traditional values in our society" or "not favor any particular set of values." A traditional libertarian would side with the latter point. But 53 percent favored the state promoting "traditional values" in 2009, a five-point rise since 2008.
Those who believe government is doing "too many things" and should also not favor any moral value system sum to slightly more than a fifth of U.S. adults in recent years. This is the loose libertarian bloc of American politics. Today, roughly another third of the electorate allies with this bloc on issues regarding government's reach into private industry.

I don't like this question. What is "promoting traditional values?" Does that mean protecting the 2ndAmendment? That's quite libertarian. Life issues can be either way. There are libertarian arguments for life if you, as I do, consider the baby a separate being from the mother. Gay marriage. Legalizing state sanctioned gay marriage I'd argue is not a libertarian stance. Having the state get out of marriage altogether is.

This limited libertarian resurgence has haunted Obama's domestic agenda. The fundamental mistake of the Obama administration in 2009 was underestimating the American public's ongoing tension with active-state liberalism, a fact visible from the outset and one only belatedly confronted by Obama.
The irony is that the stock market collapse began this revival of active-state liberalism. The drumbeat of rising anti-government sentiment grew from the financial bailouts that followed. And yet this libertarian resurgence fractures on one issue, and that's Wall Street. Support for regulating the financial sector has grown, even amid the growth of conservative libertarianism.

Right now, there's already too much government involvement in Wall Street (and mortgages). The reason of these views is that WallStreet screwed up and is taking a trillion in tax money because government, especially the democrats, are in bed with big business. The one good thing is that Chris Dodd is retiring. He and Barney Frank have done more damage to this country than any politician not named Jamie Gorelick in the last 20 years.


Indeed. Today's limited libertarian revival is a response to a sense of overreaching elite technocrats as well as fear of an intrusive bureaucracy. Responsiveness is the core impulse. Rand's radical libertarianism, where man is an ends in himself and the welfare state is fundamentally immoral, was a response to the radically invasive Soviet state that weaned her as a girl. On a drastically less extreme scale, one side of this American debate could not exist without the other. The Obama administration brought with it ambitions of a resurgence of FDR and LBJ's active-state liberalism. And with it, Obama has revived the enduring American challenge to the state.

There always needs to be a healthy challenge to the state. Government is force. Government is power. They can only do for us what they can do TO us. Government dictates is enforced by men with guns. That is what happens if you don't obey what they demand. Men with guns arrest you and send you to prison. That more than anything else pisses me off about the senate health care bill. Five years in the clink. Government power needs to be used cautiously and with extreme discretion. Politicians need to be kept in check. That's shown in the wisdom of the founding fathers, especially the anti-federalists, with the Bill of Rights. That's why we have the 1st and 2nd Amendments. That's why we have elections.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. To those are finding what I'd consider true conservatism again. Welcome back. As far as 2010 goes, if the GOP does take over the house (possible) and senate (unlikely, but possible), one piece of advice. Don't chicken out or blow it this time, because there might not be another chance.

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